Guest Post by Kate Davis. Kate Davis is a PhD Candidate at Claremont Graduate University. Her research looks at new religious spaces and communities through the lens of feminist theory, with a focus on religions of North America. She currently lives in Ohio with her husband and three cats, where she teaches at several institutions.
I didn’t go to grad school intending to do Mormon Studies. As I think is true for most of us, I could not have predicted the path my grad studies would take. I have pursued an interdisciplinary field of study because I am fascinated by the places where culture and religion intersect, and I sought out a program where I could explore those spaces.
I started my undergraduate work in religion, but soon found that I could not study religion without also studying gender. My quest for knowledge was spurred on by my experience growing up in an Evangelical Christian community. I grew up constantly questioning, feeling pulled between the theology of my religious community and the world of women I saw around me every day, but which never seemed to be accurately represented. The fire and drive for understanding created by my experiences has informed my perspectives as a researcher, beyond just my choice of field. Long after I have left that religious community behind, in my work I still seek to center the lived experiences of women, who are too often the objects rather than subjects of religious narratives.
While doing my coursework I began to take classes which included The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as part of the American religious landscape, and it did not take long for me to fall in love with Mormon Studies. I immediately began to see parallels with the Evangelical traditions I grew up with, and I knew that exploring those connections (and tensions) was what I wanted to do.
Now, as a PhD Candidate in Religion at Claremont Graduate University, I am conducting a study of religious women who are active in online spaces, creating content for platforms like blogs or Instagram. I am particularly interested in interviewing women associated with Evangelical churches and/or groups or women associated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I want to explore how women from these two traditions are using online spaces, both religiously and personally. I have decided to conduct this research through interviews and oral history. I caught the oral history bug from Claudia Bushman, and I was honored to participate in the Oral History Project at CGU. Oral histories are an interactive and creative process, and allow for an equitable and multi-dimensional portrait of the subject. In the introduction to the book Mormon Women Have Their Say: Essays from the Claremont Oral History Collection, Claudia says that “Writing our own stories empowers us […] If we want to live forever in the minds and annals of the earth, if we want other women to be represented into the future, we have to leave a record.” It is my hope that this project will add to that record.
I have been a reader of The Exponent II blog for many years, but as an outside observer rather than a participant. So I am taking this opportunity to introduce myself and, hopefully, find some people who would be willing to sit down with me virtually to talk about their experiences. Participation will include a few things: an informal virtual chat where we can talk about the project and your experiences (this will last approximately 20 to 30 minutes). You can choose to end your participation there, but if you agree to participate in the full study (no pressure!) we will schedule a time for a longer oral history-style virtual interview, which will typically last between 1 and 2 hours. Participation is totally voluntary, and you can stop at any time, or decline to answer any questions without judgment. Oral histories will be archived at CGU, and you can find out more about this project and others like it here.
I would love to hear from anyone, whether you want to participate or would just like to chat about the project, please reach out! Also, if you know of anyone who you think would be interested in participating, please feel free to share my contact information. Here is a form that you can fill out, or you can reach me by email at [email protected] or [email protected]. You can also get in touch with me on Twitter (@katesargedavis) or Instagram (@katesargentdavis).